Schools have long failed to cultivate the innate talents of many of their young people, particularly high-ability girls and boys from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds. This failure harms the economy, widens income gaps, arrests upward mobility, and exacerbates civic decay and political division.

To address these issues, researchers Christopher Yaluma and Adam Tyner examined the extent to which access to and participation in gifted programs vary for different groups of students nationally and in each state, particularly in high-poverty schools. Here’s what they found:
  • More than two-thirds of elementary and middle schools have gifted programs.
  • Overall, high-poverty schools are just as likely as low-poverty schools to have them.
  • Yet students in low-poverty schools are more than twice as likely to participate in such programs.
  • Even when black and Hispanic students have gifted programs in their elementary and middle schools, they participate at much lower rates than their peers. 
  • In schools with gifted programs, only Maryland, Kentucky, and New Hampshire enroll more than 10 percent of the state’s black and Hispanic students in those programs; in twenty-two states it’s less than 5 percent.

Increasing the participation of qualified yet underrepresented students in gifted programming...

For more than a decade, Ohio’s annual school report cards have offered the public information on school quality. The current iteration of report cards has notable strengths: School ratings are grounded in hard data, they use an intuitive A-F rating system, and several of the metrics encourage schools to pay attention to the achievement of all students.

Yet as the state has phased in new components over recent years, report cards have become increasingly complex and many of the metrics are strongly correlated with students’ background characteristics. Fordham’s latest report, Back to the Basics, suggests significant changes that would reduce the complexity of the report cards—aiding comprehension—and would produce ratings that are fairer to schools of all poverty levels.

To improve report cards, the paper offers three key recommendations:

  • Reduce the number of A-F grades. Ohio report cards now include fourteen letter grades—and soon to be fifteen as an overall rating comes out in 2018. Legislators should reduce the number of ratings to six: an overall grade plus five component ratings—Achievement, Progress, Graduation, Prepared for Success, and Equity.
  • Overhaul the Gap Closing component and rename it Equity. Gap Closing gauges the performance of subgroups, including students with disabilities, race/ethnic groups,
  • ...
One important question about school discipline is whether it helps or harms those being disciplined. But a second, equally important question is whether a push to reduce the number of suspensions is harmful to the rule-abiding majority.
This study examines outcomes in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), which made dramatic changes to its code of conduct during the 2012–13 school year. Specifically, it instituted a new ban on out-of-school suspensions (OSS) for low-level “conduct” offenses—such as profanity or failure to follow classroom rules—and reduced the length of OSS for more serious infractions. To gauge the impacts of these changes, Matthew Steinberg (University of Pennsylvania) and Johanna Lacoe (Mathematica) examined data before and after they were implemented, and penned two scholarly papers: one that focuses on the district-level effects of the change in discipline policy, and a second that explores patterns of attendance and achievement at the school, grade, and individual levels.
Here we combine those papers and synthesize their key findings for a lay audience, which include:
  • Changes in district policy had no long-term impact on the number of low-level “conduct” suspensions, and most schools did not comply with the ban on such suspensions.
  • Changes in district
  • ...
The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s sponsorship annual report highlights our work with eleven schools that served 4,150 students in five Ohio cities during the 2016-17 school year. We value this opportunity to keep stakeholders and the public informed about our efforts, and provide information on each of the schools that we sponsor.
Additionally, the report highlights our most significant research projects of our sister organization, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, over the past year.
Our goal is to provide a transparent look at the performance of our portfolio of schools. We hope that you find the report informative.

The Every Student Succeeds Act grants states more authority over their accountability systems than did No Child Left Behind, but have they seized the opportunity to develop school ratings that are clearer and fairer than those in the past? Our new analysis examines the plans submitted by all fifty states and the District of Columbia, and whether they are strong or weak (or in-between) in achieving three objectives:

  1. Assigning annual ratings to schools that are clear and intuitive for parents, educators, and the public;

  2. Encouraging schools to focus on all students, not just their low performers; and

  3. Fairly measuring and judging all schools, including those with high rates of poverty.

Key findings include:

  • Thirty-five states—69 percent—received a “strong” grade for using clear and intuitive ratings such as A–F grades, five-star ratings, or user-friendly numerical systems. These labels immediately convey to all observers how well a given school is performing, and is a major improvement over the often Orwellian school ratings of the NCLB era.

  • The country is also doing much better in signaling that every child is important, not just the “bubble kids” near the proficiency cut-off. Twenty-three states

  • ...

Research confirms what common sense dictates: Students learn less when their teachers aren’t there. According to multiple studies, a ten-day increase in teacher absence results in at least ten fewer days of learning for students.

Clearly, some absences are unavoidable—teachers are only human. But compared to their counterparts in other industries and other countries, U.S. teachers seem to have poor attendance. On average, they miss about eight school days a year due to sick and personal leave (in addition to the breaks they get for school vacations and national holidays); meanwhile, the average US worker takes about three-and-a-half sick days a year. Yet the first of these averages obscures the degree to which absenteeism is concentrated among a subset of teachers.

In Teacher Absenteeism in Charter and Traditional Public Schools, Fordham senior research and policy associate David Griffith takes an unprecedented look at teacher chronic absenteeism rates in charter and traditional public schools—that is, the percentage of teachers who miss at least eleven days of school, excluding professional development days and field trips.His major findings include the following:

  • Nationally, teachers in traditional public schools are almost three times as likely to be chronically absent as teachers in charter schools:

  • ...

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) grants states more authority over their school accountability systems than did No Child Left Behind (NCLB)—meaning that states now have a greater opportunity to design improved school ratings. Rating the Ratings: Analyzing the First 17 ESSA Accountability Plans examines whether states are making the most of the moment.

In our view, three of the most important improvements that states can make are to ensure that their accountability systems:

  1. Assign annual ratings to schools that are clear and intuitive for parents, educators, and the public;
  2. Encourage schools to focus on all students, not just their low performers; and
  3. Fairly measure and judge all schools, including those with high rates of poverty.

Table 1 shows the results for the seventeen plans that have been submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, sixteen of which have enough information for us to rate. (Click the state name to read its profile.) Although many national observers have been worried about their rigor and quality—and, to be clear, we see some plans in need of improvement—we find that, for the most part, states are moving in a positive direction under ESSA. In fact, in our view, seven states have proposed ratings systems that range...

Among high school students who consider dropping out, half cite lack of engagement with the school as a primary reason, and 42 percent report that they don’t see value in the schoolwork they are asked to do. In What Teens Want from Their Schools: A National Survey of High School Student Engagement, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Crux Research tackle the question of what truly motivates and engages students in high school.

Our nationally representative survey of over two thousand high schoolers in traditional public, charter, and private schools finds that nearly all students report being motivated to apply themselves academically, but they also primarily engage in school through different levers. Specifically, we identified six subgroups of students with varying engagement profiles: (Hover over each illustration to read their characteristics!)


Subject Lovers


Hand Raisers

Interdistrict open enrollment allows students to attend public schools outside their district of residence. It is among the largest and most widespread of school-choice efforts in the United States but often flies under the radar in policy discussions. In Ohio, over 70,000 students open enroll into schools outside their district of residence. However, despite the large scale, relatively little is known about the operation of open enrollment and the outcomes of students who participate in it.

This first-of-its-kind analysis, conducted by Ohio State University professor Stéphane Lavertu and Deven Carlson of the University of Oklahoma, uses statewide data to examine who uses open enrollment and how open enrollees perform academically.

The report yields the following findings:

  1. Consistent open enrollment is associated with modest but positive test-score gains
  2. African American open enrollees appear to make substantial gains
  3. Open enrollment throughout high school boosts the probability of on-time graduation

This is invaluable new data for a little-understood but heavily-utilized program. We urge you to download the report to learn more about what works for open enrollees across Ohio.

To see if your district participates in open enrollment, click on the image below to access a searchable, interactive map of Ohio (to...

A college degree is becoming increasingly necessary in order for young people to attain the jobs they want, and yet getting to and through college in some ways has never been more challenging. Many students are ill-prepared when they arrive, others lack the “soft” skills necessary to succeed in a postsecondary environment, and the cost of college is immense. For first-generation college students, these challenges can be daunting.

The Charles School (TCS), a Columbus charter high school that is part of the Graham Family of Schools, partners with Ohio Dominican University to provide an early college experience to students. Students can graduate with up to 62 hours of college credit, tuition free, and earn a high school diploma as well as an associate’s degree in a five-year program.

TCS and other high-quality charter options like it illuminate a path to and through college for many students like Chris Sumlin, profiled in this report. May his compelling story encourage us to support any school option that is effective at closing the college-going gap and setting young people up for success....